Often people are invited to serve as part of a team. The individuals may well be more diverse than would be the case in an employed environment as the reasons for volunteering are not entirely based on skills and ambition. I remember, for instance, visiting one church overseas and finding that the Deputy High Commissioner for the UK and his family were members of the church. I then observed how he and his wife served faithfully among the children on a Sunday, not too proud to be scrabbling around on the ground with young children getting covered in paint and glue! They knew what it was to serve humbly without seeking any acclaim from man. I am sure the Lord was pleased.
For such a couple to be led by local nationals would have been a big cultural statement and I am sure that effort must have been made by the church leaders to build a team in which this was possible.
A team acknowledges the strengths (and weaknesses) of other team members and seeks to complement the various giftings to the benefit of all. Where this is successful there is a bonding between members that is far stronger than merely working together.
This bonding can be intentionally strengthened in various ways. First, and I feel most important, is honouring one another. It is so good to commend others publicly; it both builds up the individual and is also an example of community flowing together in a way that observers notice. I was reading recently in Is 60 how the nations would flow to the light of Israel. What was it they saw that could be described as ‘light’? Predominantly it was the Lord in their midst, but how was His presence manifest? There would have been many ways but, for this context, the love they had for one another would have been conspicuous and attractive. Seeing a team working together also helps mobilise others to serve as they desire to be part of such a company, as stated in part 1 of this series.
It is important for honouring also to happen in front of the whole church. Thank and commend those who successfully and sacrificially served a particular event, for example, perhaps staying until midnight to clear up the venue after everyone had returned home. Present flowers to someone who has served faithfully in a ministry for many years. These easy and apparently small gestures are so helpful in making people feel appreciated and energised to continue to serve.
Volunteers give their time and energy without demanding anything in response. But let’s be good at thoughtfully and intentionally giving some ‘perks’. For instance, we used to take all our trustees for a meal around Christmas as a way of saying ‘thank you’ for the many hours of faithful and diligent service they contributed to the healthy life of the church. Sometimes we would arrange a summer outing for both staff and key volunteers to enjoy a day out together. When the Together on a Mission leadership conferences ended in 2011 after about 20 years I had the joy of taking the team leaders out for the day to The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum (highly recommended!) which included a meal and some presentations. A little intentionality and thoughtful planning is always greatly appreciated and is a good investment into the future.
Next time we will look at other ways of encouraging people, including training.